2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Update: Sports car steering in the family SUV

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Update: Sports car steering in the family SUV

One of the first things I noticed upon setting off in our long-term 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV is its abnormally heavy steering weight. For a three-row family SUV, it’s a little startling. For a Mazda, it’s simply what I’ve come to expect.

How Mazda tunes its steering is different from most manufacturers these days, as it still believes in the one-size-fits-all mantra when it comes to steering effort. Although the CX-90 has Normal and Sport driving modes, the steering feel, ratio and everything imaginable about it stay exactly the same That’s quite a bit different from most other brands that offer up a light feel in Normal or Comfort but artificially step the effort up in Sport mode. There’s nothing particularly new about this phenomenon, though, as Mazda’s lived by this philosophy for quite some time. Another fan-favorite OEM that does the same? Porsche.

Generally speaking, I appreciate the consistency of a single steering mode. Just nail it from the start, and don’t let the user mess it up – most cars we praise the steering of don’t offer multiple modes. It makes sense from a safety standpoint, too. If you find yourself in a situation requiring a quick move, you want the steering to be exactly as you expect it to be. At the same time, I think that argument is selling us humans a little short, as even with fairly dramatic differences in steering tuning, it’s pretty easy to get your bearings and understand what needs to be done with the wheel in an emergency situation.

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But where am I going with this? Well, I think there’s a balance that could likely be struck between Mazda’s heavy sports car steering in the CX-90 and the feather-light easiness of something like a Hyundai Palisade. If Mazda is serious about stealing a bigger chunk of the three-row SUV segment – and it sure seems like that’s the case with how much new engineering went into the CX-90 – then it would likely benefit the car to offer various steering modes like most of the industry does.